How To Walk To Please God

  Sometimes people think that the Lord is a hard master. They are ready to say, like the servant, in the parable of the Pounds, "I feared thee, because thou art an austere man" (Luke 19:21). The motive of the service of such persons is fear, not love. They serve God because they are afraid punishment will come upon them if they do not. They look at the results of not doing instead of looking at the results of doing. Their religion is a negative thing, and can have little of joy in it. Their service is a forced service, and not really and truly a willing service. If they do not serve God, hell will be their doom; therefore they try to do that which is right or which they esteem to be right.

God is not a hard master. His requirements are all reasonable. Thus says Micah: "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). Is there any hardship in that? anything we cannot gladly do? No, God is not a hard master; he is a God of lovingkindness and of tender mercy. Paul calls our service to him a "reasonable service." God is always just; he is always kind; he always makes all the allowance that he ought to make for us. If we are weak, he will strengthen us; if we are ignorant, he will give us of his wisdom; if we grow faint, he will uphold us; if he is kind to the unthankful and the evil, how much more so will he be to those who love him and try earnestly to serve him. He is not hard to please, and if we really try to please him, we shall not only succeed, but have the testimony of his Spirit in our hearts that he is well pleased with us.

He can be pleased only with that which is right. He hates iniquity; he hates every evil thing and can find no pleasure whatever in such. If, then, we would please him, we must depart from evil; must shut it out of our lives; must allow none of our conduct to be evil. God is pleased with that which is good and all that is good. In order to please him, therefore, we have only to do that which is good and right. Some people think that the Christian life is an unnatural and hard life; they seem to think that we must put ourselves in a sort of strait-jacket and live a life of bondage. They look at the negative aspect of the life and think that the life of the Christian consists in not doing and not being and not feeling and not thinking this, that and the other. They feel that they must shut themselves off from that which they naturally desire. This is looking at things from the wrong angle. The Christian life is a positive life; it consists in doing and being. It is not an unnatural or forced life; it is not a strained life. It is not a life in which we have to repress all our normal desires; on the contrary, it is a life wherein our desires are brought into conformity to the will of God so that we can carry out these desires in a natural and normal and holy way, and find in carrying them out our truest pleasure and God's greatest glory.

The Christian life is not a repression of desire. It is the revolution of desire, so that our desires become holy desires and our purposes become holy purposes. If we try to live Christians without this revolution, we shall have a hard and irksome task. That is why so many professors say they have such a "hard row to hoe." The reason why they find little or no joy in Christian service is because their lives have not been transformed by the power of God. Their life is lived wholly in their own power. It is thus an unnatural and powerless life, one beset with many difficulties, and one which cannot be a real Christian life, but at best can only be a cold formality.

The Christian life is a life full of warmth and strength and beauty. The law of that life is love. We are to walk in love. To do this we must lay aside all selfish purposes. This is not hard if we really love. That is the question - Do we really love? Christ is our example in pleasing God. He said, "I do always those things that please him" (John 8:29). Why did he do this? and how was he able to do this? It was because he loved the Father with a pure and tender love; it was because he loved the things that the Father loved. The basis of all acceptable service is love. God could force us to serve him had he chosen that way, but that service would never have satisfied the heart of God or the heart of man. Love, not force, is God's method. He has not put us under compulsory law; he has left for us to choose whether we will serve him or not. There is no harshness in his rule. He will not compel us. Jesus thus stated the foundation of God's law: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings" (John 14:21, 23, 24). If we love, we will serve, not because we must, but because we love. The only compulsion is the compulsion of love, and that, after all, is the strongest of all compulsion. If we love God, we desire with all our hearts and with all our strength to please him. We shall seek throughout our lives to conform to his will in all the details and in all the aspects of our lives. It is not hard for love to serve; in fact, love finds its greatest delight in service. It is true that there is self-denial in service, but to love, self-denial is not bitter, but sweet. How gladly we lay ourselves out for those whom we love! and how sweet is the approval thus gained! The early Christians "took joyfully the spoiling of their goods." They bore persecution of the bitterest kind and rejoiced. Why could they do this? Because they loved.

The power of love is illustrated by the following incident "A minister who was ill was lying on a couch one day while his little girl played around the room in her childish way. Presently he said to her, "Daughter, will you bring Papa a drink?" She went on with her playing as though she had not heard him. He repeated his request. She was all absorbed in her play, and said, "Oh, I don't want to." Her father said, "I thought you loved Papa." Instantly she dropped her playthings, her face lighted up, and she started, saying, "Oh, yes, Papa, I'll go, I'll go"; and quickly she ran and brought the desired drink. When her love was appealed to, her response was immediate. So God appeals to our love, and if that love is genuine, our response to him will be ready.

The contemplation of God's love and goodness is the strongest possible incentive to live holy. We love him because he first loved us and gave himself for us. When we behold how good and how kind he has been through all our lives, how he has borne with our evil ways and not cut us off, how he still offered us mercy day after day until finally he won our love - when we view all this, how strongly are we impelled to serve him and how easy his service becomes! We do not wish to wound those whom we truly love.

We may find many things in the Christian life that are hard to do with our own strength, but we do not have to trust to our strength alone. Paul, who had learned the secret of Christian life, says, "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20). Ah, that is the great secret of the life! That is what makes it easy, that is what makes it joyful, that is what makes it glorious - Christ liveth in us. Again, it is said, "It is God which worketh in you" (Philippians 2:13). The secret of a victorious life is permitting him to work in us - submitting to him that his will may be wrought in us, and not only submitting, but throwing our will actively with his, causing his will to be accomplished. Too many people try to live the Christian life without first becoming Christians. They take upon themselves a profession of religion, but they do not get Christ in their hearts. Their service is all a human service, and consequently it fails and comes short and is inadequate. Throw open your heart's door. Let Christ come in to reign. Let him be the power that worketh in you, and then you can live the kind of life that will please him. To try in your own strength is but to fail. To succeed you must needs have his power joined with your power.

For a year and a half the writer tried to be a Christian before he really became a Christian. It was his heart's true purpose to serve God and do right, but alas, how often he came short! alas, how often he was involved in sin! Sometimes he felt that it was not worth trying anymore, that only failure awaited him. At last he threw himself upon the mercy of God and received Jesus Christ into his life. What an unspeakably glorious change was wrought! He could now live - Christ could live in him; and for more than twenty-five years he has proved the Christian life to be an easy, a natural, and a happy life filled with the glory and grace of God. Christ broke the gravitation earthward and established a gravitation heavenward. From that time forward, service was delightful, and it has been his joy to follow Christ, and he knows what it is from personal experience to have the testimony of the Spirit of God in his heart that God is well pleased with him. He is not an isolated example. There are tens of thousands who know this in their own lives and hearts. They live this kind of life and have this kind of testimony. In fact, such is the outcome of a true Christian experience. If service is hard, it is from a lack of love. If service is imperfect, it is from a lack of love. Therefore let us love that we may serve, and serve because we love.